Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199 – Episode Sixteen – A Choice For The Future
April 16, 2016 Leave a comment
The Yamato’s journey so far has been informed by fear of the other, of alien races with immense power, and a technological advantage that has resulted in earths near destruction, alongside hope of a bright future. Throughout the series first half, these two themes have been continuously in conflict, with many using their anger, and hatred of Gamilas, the faceless evil that has come to destroy earth without warning. Hope also remains an essential element of their mission, and while many are driven by their hatred, they are also taking part in the hope that they can reach Iscander, and save earth from certain destruction. However, hope is fragile, and often ephemeral, it can disappear in an instant, and be replaced by fear, anger, and dread, and while hope has managed to prevail, lately there has been the shadow of fear over the Yamato, one that pushes all over feelings, thoughts, and ideals away.
As we have seen in previous episodes, there are a number of crew members aboard the Yamato who are less than pleased at the current plan, with many questioning the very existence of Iscander. On one level it is easy to see why this is the case, while we as the audience know that Iscander exists, and that it is in the same system as Gamilas, perhaps even a twin planet, the crew of the Yamato do not. For all they know, they are making a long, difficult, and dangerous journey to an empty spot in space, millions of light years from earth, and without any possibility of saving their planet from its certain doom. While they may hope that their mission is a success, and that Iscander does indeed exist, in the back of their minds there may well be the nagging feeling that the whole mission will fail, and result in the death of those they hold most dear. Such doubts are powerful, and are fed by every close escape, or narrow brush with Gamilas forces, further reinforcing the feeling that no matter what Okita, or other officers may say, things are not working, and something must change. Indeed, characters like Niimi and Itou are absolutely reliant on the smallest of uncertainties, something that they can exploit and bring about the Izumo plan instead. In many respects the Izumo plan is founded on the idea that the earth is doomed, and that regardless of whatever else happens, humanities best chance at survival is to find a new planet. It is a plan based on humanities independence and the notion that all alien life is somehow hostile, and perhaps even evil.
Based on previous episodes, Niimi hardly seems like a nasty individual, rather, she has focussed on the Izumo plan out of a deep desire to help earth survive. Her conversation in this episode with Sanada further reinforces that fact as she talks about the difficulty of the Yamato’s mission, the uncertainty of success, and the possibility that Iscander simply does not exist. To her, the Izumo plan, alongside the presence of Beemela 4, an earth type planet suitable for supporting humanities survivors represents a clear possibility of success. There is a physicality to her dreams that the current plan lacks, and that presents a fixed point from which all other plans could sprout from. Now, such a plan is far from certain, and certainly no less dangerous than the current Yamato plan – for example, the great distance that the Yamato has travelled, and the dangers it has faced would certainly pose a significant obstacle for any resettlement fleet, assuming one even exists. Furthermore, as I discussed in the previous post, it seems unlikely that the Izumo plan was created to save humanity in its entirety, especially given the current state of production, cities, and supplies. The Yamato can cross space because it is highly advanced, using alien technology for many of its systems in a way that convention ships would never be capable of replicating. As such, any plan would likely involve saving the ‘best and brightest’, and therefore leaving all those who are not chosen to death. Similarly, it seems unlikely that any potential fleet could make the same journey as the Yamato, as such, the entire plan appears to be based more on hope than on anything concrete.
While Niimi appears motivated out of a will to help humanity in the only way she knows how, Itou is quite the opposite, an individual who appears to be largely motivated by greed and hatred. He seems less interested in saving humanity, and instead focusses on easy targets, claiming that Yuki is secretly a princess of Iscander, an alien sent to lead the Yamato astray, and aid in the destruction of earth. He taps into the deep well of anger, resentment, and fear on-board the Yamato, and uses it to take control, or at least attempt to. Fear of the other has long had an impact on the way people view other countries and ethnic groups, informing xenophobia and racism. In Yamato 2199, Gamilas is often portrayed as a faceless other, a great evil bent on total destruction, and even when other sides of Gamilas are presented to the audience and crew, that image remains. Itou taps into that fear, but instead of focussing on Gamilas alone, chooses to paint all aliens with the same brush, and accusing them all of evil and trickery. In many respects Itou seems less interested in the safety of humanity (although he certainty seems to care, if only a little), instead focussing on methods to gain power, and push his own, anti-alien agenda onto others. That he fails in his attempts further reinforces the importance of hope, and its ability to allow others to carry out a plan, regardless of the obstacles in their way.
Furthermore, this episode helps to flesh out Yamato 2199’s universe introducing us to new worlds, and new races. Humanity is not alone in the universe, and not all races are evil, we just have to look at the planets and peoples reduced to ash for rebelling against Gamilas to see that, but this episode also helped to explain Iscander’s position in the universe, and the dangers that go along with it. Starsha Iscander looks like a universal messier, providing help to people across the universe, in order to save them from the dark. And yet, Beemela 4, a planet that clearly once had a flourishing insect civilisation, is now silent and abandoned. Reagrdless of the help that Starsha, and Iscander provided, the insect race could not survive, suggesting that, regardless of outside help, it is ultimately up to individual planets to ensure that their civilisation endures. Not only does this episode further demonstrate how complex the galaxy is by showing us a now extinct civilisation, it also highlights how one-dimensional Itou’s view of life is. The presence of Yurisha Iscander, who appears to have possessed the body of Yuria Misaki (thus also demonstrating how wrong Itou is when he accuses Yuki of being an alien from Iscander) further complicates matters. Her presence, and previous comments about the immense power that the Yamato has harnessed, coupled with the existence of a now deceased civilisation further demonstrate how easily a people or race can cease to exist. Earth is simply one small planet, and the Yamato represents its only hope of survival, but, they must make the right choices to survive, something that other civilisations have not made, and arguably, if the Izumi plan had gone ahead, humans would have also died out.
Finally, this episode also fleshed out a number of relationships, while also emphasising the power of Yamato 2199’s female characters and their role in driving key decisions within the series. Firstly, Iscander is ruled by Starsha, who has clearly set herself the goal of liberating and saving as many civilisations as possible with the aid of her sisters. We saw the consequences of Iscander’s bravery when Sasha gave her life to deliver the Wave Motion Device to earth. Similarly, Yurisha may well be part of the automatic navigation system, likely stuck in a coma from the car crash that a number of episodes have hinted at. Furthermore, it is the female characters in this episode that take action, either misguided action in the case of Niimi, of physical action in the case of Makoto and Akira to help free the crew. These characters are often overlooked, but they help drive the narrative, and make sure that it doesn’t turn into a simple boys own adventure.